Chick Raborn took a final visit with his family to the Mason Aquatic Center
Last September, Henry “Chick” Raborn and his family drove from his home in Splendora to the Mason Aquatic Center located in Houston’s East side, a place he hadn’t been to since 1986, and before that, since he worked there as a teenager during World War II.
It would be his last visit to his beloved swimming pool. His family emailed City Savvy recently to inform the newsletter that he died in his sleep.
“With a sad heart I am writing to let you know that my father "Chick" Raborn died July 5, 2023, after a short illness,” daughter Alison Raborn wrote. “He was 95 years old. He loved Mason Park as if it was his very own and had wonderful memories as a lifeguard.”
“I want to thank the city for allowing my father to tour the facilities one last time back in 2022. He met my mother there at the pool, and they were married 70 years before she passed away in October 2021.
Born on November 26, 1927, in Houston, Raborn (known by his family and friends as “Chick”) worked as a lifeguard for the City of Houston in his teens. He was considered the oldest living former lifeguard to have worked for the Houston Parks and Recreation Department.
He started working at the center as a basket boy in 1943 after his older brother Paul enlisted in the Navy. He eventually became a pool engineer, which entailed keeping the pool and the water clean, cleaning the pool filters and sweeping the sidewalks before working his way up to becoming a lifeguard.
Chick graduated in 1946 from Milby High School and served honorably in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Navy Reserve. After completing his year and a half enlistment, Chick attended college at Texas A&M and spent his summers working as a lifeguard at the pool.
He met his future wife Garvis as she was hanging on the ladder on the deep end. “I asked her if she could swim, but I knew she couldn’t, and we started talking,” he said during an interview with City Savvy last year.
After their conversation soon blossomed into romance, Chick and Garvis married in 1951. He later worked 26 years at a major oil refinery along the Houston Ship Channel as an engineer, chief operator, and first-class mechanic. He also graduated from the Industrial Electrical Institute in Chicago, Ill.
In September, Chick and his family traveled from Splendora to see his favorite spot one last time. The family was given a tour of the facility by the staff, and the staff received a history lesson on what it was like to be a lifeguard back in the 1940s.
Leroy Maura Jr., Houston Parks Aand Recreation Department senior superintendent of the Recreation and Wellness division, said at the time the visit emphasized the importance of connections to life.
“Everything we do in life has a very important connection to both our pass, present, and future. We should always be kind because you never know who people are or the impact you will have on each other,” he said in his interview with City Savvy.
Chick enjoyed hunting and fishing with his brothers, exploring nature with his children, and coaching youth baseball at Mount Carmel Catholic Church. His other hobbies included vegetable gardening, storytelling, taxidermy, and volunteering at St. John of The Cross Catholic Church, New Caney.
He leaves behind five children: Ronald Raborn, Karen Raborn, Teresa Pinder, Stephen Raborn and Alison Raborn along with twelve grandchildren; sixteen great-grandchildren, and one great-great grandchild.
Chick was preceded in death by his wife, Garvis N. (McDonald) Raborn, his beloved son Donald L. Raborn, parents Thomas W. Raborn and Rose A. (Packard) Raborn, and his siblings Rose F. Kihn, Dorothy M. (Ventre) Reed, Joseph L. Raborn, Paul D. Raborn, and Edward L. Raborn.
And with this chapter complete, Chick Raborn has finally gone home to be with his beloved Garvis.